Coal

A coal country dispute over an alleged Trump promise unmet

In this June 7, 2017 file photo, a coal barge is positioned as a backdrop behind President Donald Trump as he speaks during a rally at the Rivertowne Marina in Cincinnati. President Donald Trump personally promised to activate emergency legal authorities to keep dirty or economically uncompetitive coal plants from shutting down, a top American coal company said. The Trump administration now says it has no plans to do so. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

WASHINGTON, DC — “The Trump administration has rejected a coal industry push to win a rarely used emergency order protecting coal-fired power plants, a decision contrary to what one coal executive said the president personally promised him.

The Energy Department says it considered issuing the order sought by companies seeking relief for plants it says are overburdened by environmental rules and market stresses. But the department ultimately ruled it was unnecessary, and the White House agreed, a spokeswoman said.

The decision is a rare example of friction between the beleaguered coal industry and the president who has vowed to save it. It also highlights a pattern emerging as the administration crafts policy: The president’s bold declarations – both public and private – are not always carried through to implementation.

The aid Murray sought from Trump involves invoking a little-known section of the U.S. Federal Power Act that allows the Energy Department to temporarily intervene when the nation’s electricity supply is threatened by an emergency, such as war or natural disaster. Among other measures, it temporarily exempts power plants from obeying environmental laws. In the past, the authority has been used sparingly, such as during the California energy crisis in 2000 and following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Obama administration never used it. The Trump administration has used it twice in seven months in narrow instances.

— Jeff Horwitz, Michael Biesecker and Matthew Daly, Associated Press

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